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One of the basic StackExchange rules is that soliciting product recommendations is verboten. Hence Graphical diff for Mac OS X, which turned up when I searched the Web (not SO) for OSX graphical diff tools, was closed as Not Constructive with 300+ upvotes for the question, 300+ upvotes for the selected answer, 87 votes for the runner-up...

This sounds to me like "SO rules know better than the community what the community needs." This is really a lot of upvotes for a nonstarter category of question.

Is there someplace within the StackExchange framework where this kind of questions may be asked? xyz.recommendations.stackexchange.com? As pointed out in the comments, having a graphical diff tool is a real programming need and it can be within the interests of programmers to have tool needs addressed. Now it may be that this is formally classified as Not Constructive, but this is a juridical decision that should be able to be vetoed by overwhelming upvotes.

Perhaps n (50 or so) upvotes could say, "This justifies an exception", and be seen as a veto to a juridical classification of "Not Constructive" (just very helpful to hundreds of StackOverflow visitors).

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Just because some type of question isn't allowed on SE doesn't mean it's banned from the internet. –  Servy Oct 5 '12 at 19:33
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What makes you think that SO rules don't also come from the community? –  Yannis Oct 5 '12 at 21:44

2 Answers 2

There are two blog posts by Jeff Atwood that explain the logic behind this attitude:

You should immediately triage the feedback and feature requests you get into two broad buckets:

We need power windows in this car!

or

We need a truck bed in this car!

The former is, of course, a reasonable thing to request adding to a car, while the latter is a request to change the fundamental nature of the vehicle. The malleable form of software makes it all too tempting to bolt that truck bed on to our car. Why not? Users keep asking for it, and trucks sure are convenient, right?

Don't fall into this trap. Stay on mission. That car-truck hybrid is awfully tempting to a lot of folks, but then you end up with a Subaru Brat. Unless you really want to build a truck after all, the users asking for truck features need to be gently directed to their nearest truck dealership, because they're in the wrong place.

Just because users like this question doesn't mean it is right for this community, or will make SO a better website.

Finally, with regard to the "let's make an exception for this one" idea: if you allow some unconstructive questions through, new users will use those examples as evidence or encouragement that they can or should ask similar questions (many of which will be of much lower quality). This is why some popular questions are locked with the message:

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed.

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+1 for the Subaru BRAT reference (and the all around good answer) –  psubsee2003 Oct 5 '12 at 19:42

Yes. Yes they do.

Note that that question was asked years ago, before the current guidelines were in place. Even if not closed immediately, a similar question wouldn't garner the same number of upvotes because the community's decided that those questions aren't a good fit for SO.

Realize also that "Not Constructive" doesn't mean "not useful." Product recommendations are quite handy, they're just a bad fit for SO. This post from Jeff lays out a number of the arguments against them.

In that particular case, I see at least a couple tools that haven't been updated in over a year, which just begs for a steady stream of "Updated Graphical Diff Tool recommendation?" questions.

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